FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia man with a history of child sexual abuse pleaded guilty this week to blackmailing a child in California to produce sexually explicit material for him.

Chad Michael Lehofer, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of exploitation of a minor and one count of possession of child pornography on Thursday, Oct. 20. He previously served a one and a half year prison sentence for child sexual abuse that was committed when he lived in Connecticut.

Blackmail

According to a statement of facts, agreed to by Lehofer as part of his plea, he first made contact with his victim in December 2018, when he began asking her to send sexually explicit photos and videos.

According to an affidavit filed early in the case, Lehofer responded to the images, which he knew were from a minor, by sending explicit photos of himself and suggesting he meet with his victim in person.

In February 2019, the minor attempted to break off contact with Lehofer. Lehofer then began using a phone spoofer to obtain an area code near the victim’s home, across the country from where Lehofer actually lived in Virginia.

He threatened her with exposure if she did not continue sending explicit material. As part of that harassment, he included her real name in a social media handle to demonstrate his intention of exposing her previously sent explicit images to friends and family.

He sent the victim the contact information for her mother’s place of work, and said “I’m going to start sending your shit” and “I’ll be calling your mom later too.”

Finding Lehofer

The victim’s case eventually came to the attention of the Homeland Security office in San Francisco, which made contact with its office in DC and began trying to uncover Lehofer’s identity.

According to a police affidavit, they obtained a warrant for the internet phone app used by Lehofer, discovering that his account was created using an IP address registered to his mother’s home in Fredericksburg.

During a search of the home, agents seized Lehofer’s iPhone, on which Lehofer had installed the “KeepSafe” app — an app that disguised itself as a calculator, but was in fact a PIN-protected media vault.

Inside, the affidavit said, were “hundreds of sexually explicit images and videos,” many of which had been sent by his victim. The vault also contained a screenshot of the victim’s mother’s contact information, which had been used to blackmail the victim.

Lehofer now faces a minimum of 15 years in prison, but could face as much as 50 years in prison, though he is unlikely to face the maximum penalty allowed under law.

Lehofer is set to be sentenced on February 16, 2023.